Naqba — Commemorating a Self-Inflicted Tragedy

May 19, 2013 4:27 am 5 comments

Nakba Day protestors at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, 2011. Photo: wiki commons.

Today, Palestinians and their supporters, as they have done increasingly over the years, mark what they call the naqba (Arabic for catastrophe). It was on this day 65 years ago that Israel came into existence upon the expiry of British rule under a League of Nations mandate.

That juxtaposition of Israel and naqba in not accidental. We are meant to understand that Israel’s creation caused the displacement of hundreds of thousand of Palestinian Arabs.

But the truth is different. A British document from early 1948, declassified only weeks ago, tells the story: “the Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats…. Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands.”

In other words, Jew and Arabs, including irregular foreign militias from neighboring states, were already fighting and Arabs fleeing even before Israel had sovereign existence.

Thus, on May 15, what is now called the naqba consisted, not of an Israeli act of forcible displacement of Arabs, but of neighboring Arab armies and internal Palestinian militias responding to Israel’s declaration of independence and Britain’s departure with full-scale hostilities. Tel Aviv was bombed from the air and the head of Israel’s provisional government, David Ben Gurion, delivered his first radio address to the nation from an air-raid shelter.

Israel successfully resisted invasion and dismemberment — the universally affirmed objective of the Arab belligerents — and Palestinians came off worst of all from the whole venture. At war’s end, over 600,000 Palestinians were living as refugees under neighboring Arab regimes.

So the term naqba is misleading. Indeed, it smacks of falsehood, inasmuch as it implies a tragedy inflicted by others. The tragedy, of course, was self-inflicted.

As Israel’s UN ambassador Abba Eban was to put it, “Once you determine the responsibility for that war, you have determined the responsibility for the refugee problem. Nothing in the history of our generation is clearer or less controversial than the initiative of Arab governments for the conflict out of which the refugee tragedy emerged.”

However, the Palestinians do not mourn today the ill-conceived choice of going to war to abort Israel. They mourn only that they failed.

This is contrary to normal historical experience of disastrous defeat. The Germans today mourn their losses in the Second World War — but not by lauding their invasion of Poland and justifying their attempt to subjugate Europe. They do not glorify Nazi aggression.

The Japanese today mourn their losses in the Second World War — but not by lauding their assault on Pearl Harbor and their attempt to subjugate southeast Asia. They do not glorify Japanese imperialism.

The very existence of naqba commemorations is therefore instructive in a way few realize. It informs us that Palestinians have not admitted or assimilated the fact — as Germans and Japanese have done — that they became victims as a direct result of their efforts to be perpetrators. It informs us that Palestinians would still like to succeed today at what they miserably failed to achieve then. And it informs us that they take no responsibility for their own predicament, which is uniquely maintained to this day at their own insistence.

If readers doubt my word, consider this vignette from January 2001. That month, Palestinian rioters in the West Bank burned in effigy John Manley, then Foreign Minister in Jean Chrétien’s Canadian Government. His sin? — Mr. Manley had offered to welcome Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Canada after a peace settlement. The Palestinian response? Legislator Hussum Khader of Fatah, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’ party — not Hamas or another of the Islamist groups — threatened Canada, saying, “If Canada is serious about resettlement, you could expect military attacks in Ottawa or Montreal.” A similar offer by then-Australian Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, also received a threatening Palestinian rejoinder.

Scarcely a typical response by a government official to an offer of refugee relief, Mr. Khader’s was illuminating. Setting up a Palestinian state and resettling the refugees and their descendants inside it or abroad would remove any internationally accepted ground for conflict. That is why helping to solve the Palestinian refugee problem is regarded as a hostile act — by Palestinians.

Naqba commemorations disclose that the conflict is about Israel’s existence — not about territory, borders, holy places, refugees, or any other bill of particulars.

Only when Palestinians accept that Israel is here to stay will the possibility of the conflict’s end come into view. In the meantime, responsible governments can discourage and repudiate naqba commemorations as a small but important step towards bringing that day closer.

This article was originally published by the American Spectator.

5 Comments

  • in re: “we will push them into the sea” it doesn’t get more naqba than that.

  • jerry hersch

    “But the truth is different. A British document from early 1948, declassified only weeks ago, tells the story: “the Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats…. Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands.”

    In other words, Jew and Arabs, including irregular foreign militias from neighboring states, were already fighting and Arabs fleeing even before Israel had sovereign existence.”
    —————————
    Does not the recent Knesset action allowing for the mandatory expulsion of Bedouins belie the Israeli version of the Jewish people not forcing others out of their homes…
    Were the Israeli Bedouins Palesinians they would be treated as an enemy…as Israelis they are treated as Nothings.

  • This article just recycles decade old hasbara.

    Without the ethnic cleansing of large bulks of Palestinians, there would be no Israel. The naqba was necessary in order to create Israel, whether you like it or not.

    It’s funny, and truly Orwellian language, to describe the arab resistance against European jewish settlers/zionists as “an invasion”. I guess the American natives also tried to “invade” the north american settler communities. lol.

    Let’s face it: it was the zionists who were planning, and to large extent succeeded, an ethnically exclusive state, not the other way around. Jews, muslims and christians had been living there with for centuries.

    • Oh really?

      My grandmother was born in “Palestine”, circa 1924. She still has a birth certificate from the State of Palestine, which was run under British mandate at the time. Guess what? – She’s Jewish. Her Family had been living there for many generations prior. Yes, there were Christians and Jews and Arabs living together in the region, with the British routinely having to provide a security buffer between he Jews and Christians on the one hand, and the Muslims on the other, in order to protect the other two denominations from the Muslims, because of their wild and barbaric attacks against them. This is all well documented in history, as is the local Muslim’s allegiance with the Nazis at the time. Open a history book every now and again, it might make you more of an intellectual challenge, as opposed to an ignorant propaganda artist.

      Now, to continue to refute the utter nonsense you were spewing:
      Today, in the state of Israel, Jews, Arabs and Christians live together as Israeli citizens, sharing equal rights under law. This fact unequivocally negates your ignorant rant regarding an ethnically exclusive state of Israel. To even suggest such a thing is sheer buffoonery at best, or lies and propaganda at worst. I believe the latter to be the case in this case, and rest assured that Joseph Goebells would have been proud of you.

      And bravo, monkey – you’ve actually managed to learn a Hebrew word. If only you’d have paid half as much attention in History class, I wouldn’t be schooling you right now. Next, we’ll examine the power of words: “Hasbara”, which means “explanation”. Pretty Innocent in nature, right? – here’s another word: “Zionism”, which is defined as the Israeli longing for a Jewish homeland. Also, pretty legitimate – unless you’re an antisemite bigot of course. So far, pretty straight forward and innocent words, which speak of the yearning for a homeland, and of the explanation of evens from the Israeli perspective.

      Now, pay close attention, because here’s where it gets a bit tricky: Lets review some words in Arabic: “Islam” means submission. Not too friendly a term, now is it? And how about “Jihad”, which means holy war? – Hmm, that doesn’t sound too friendly either… What about the word “Kafir”, which means Infidel? – Under Islam, an infidel (kafir) is considered unclean and ritually impure (najasat). Many scholars claim Islam’s original sources (Qur’an and Hadith) and derived sources (Ijma, Qiyas and Qitabs) speak of violence against infidel unbelievers (Jews, Christians, Buddhists et all) living in Dar al-Harb – countries where Islamic law is not in force[weasel words], as a matter of religious duty of the Muslim community (fard ala’l kifāya).

      So lets see… We have Jewish terminology that’s pretty straight forward in its peaceful intent, and you have Muslim terminology that’s extremely straight forward in its ethnically and religiously exclusive, bloodthirsty and zealous views. Now based on this, who’s more likely to be the aggressor and the instigator?

      Yup, that’s what I thought.
      Class dismissed.

  • Using the term “palestinian” is wrong in the first place. “palestinians” are arabs. This how they define themselves in their own “national charter”. “palestinians” do not exist. The naqba is an hoax set up by a fictitious nation.

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